RMG Exposed Photo Picks – Linda Jansma

In the lead up to RMG Exposed 2015,  the RMG’s fundraising auction of juried photography, our staff will be sharing their favourite photos on our blog. View all the photographs at rmgexposed.ca

Linda Jansma is the RMG’s Senior Curator. She has written essays for catalogues dealing with both historical and contemporary art and has been the supervising curator of over 165 exhibitions for the RMG. She is the chair of the City of Oshawa’s Art and History Committee and Art Policy Committee and is an Advisory committee member of Durham College’s Fine Art programme.

Linda’s top picks for RMG Exposed are:

Jordyn Stewart - Displaced 2

Jordyn Stewart – Displaced 2

There’s something about this image… We’ve all seen dishes piled in a sink, ready to be washed. But a bobber? And the bobber isn’t just floating, the string is being held in place by something, or someone. Which adds an element of mystery—the photographer could as easily have just popped the bobber in, but he wanted to control where it was—and hence control the composition. I also love how the bobber is surrounded by a delicate halo of bubbles.

Tom Ridout - Machine Age

Tom Ridout – Machine Age

This post-apocalyptic industrial scene is simultaneously frightening and fascinating. I want to know where this is, but I suppose it could exist in any industrial country. The photographer has set up his shot in a way that we can’t see the end of this building: this scene, is, in effect, never-ending which adds to the tension.

Jen Yearman Big Beach

Jen Yearman Big Beach

This incredibly saturated beach scene is fascinating to pour over. Every time I look at it, I see another detail—from the flower-shaped beach umbrella to the lone red chair in the centre of the image–everything seems to have been purposely placed by the artist. The pink sky in the background ties it all together for me.

 

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José Seoane’s, Untitled

Linda Jansma’s Reflections on Today

I am not a particularly emotional person. Just ask my family, friends and colleagues who can attest to the fact that my stoic, Northern European roots run deep.

But this afternoon was different. Jason Dankel, the RMG Preparator, had installed the last work in the exhibition Moving Image. The lighting wasn’t done, nor the cards up, but the work was on the wall by mid-afternoon. I was in the space, on my own, and stood in front of Cuban-Canadian artist José Seoane’s Untitled oars that represented the experiences of those who risked their lives in small boats with handmade oars to make the treacherous trip across the open waters from Cuba to Miami. As I reflected on that work, the sound of avante-garde composer William Basinki’s video Disintegration Loop played behind me. Basinski had completed his composition on the morning of 9/11 and was playing it to a friend on the roof of his New York City apartment when the Twin Towers were hit. He set up a camera and recorded the waning hours of daylight with plumes of black smoke drifting across the sky as the sun set. He combined the music of the Disintegration Loops with the video to create an elegy to that unforgettable day.

Abdullah M. I. Syed, Rug of Flying Drones, 2009

Abdullah M. I. Syed, Rug of Flying Drones, 2009

So I listened to it, while looking at José’s oars, knowing that Abdullah Syed’s Rug of Drones, an installation of 107 planes in the exhibition Beyond Measure, and constructed of blades from box cutters—and which also clearly referenced 9/11, was on the other end of the gallery. And the oars were no longer specific to fleeing Cubans, but to the thousands of refugees who are risking it all to seek a safer and better life away from their homes in Syria, Iraq, Libya …

And the picture of a three year old boy flashed in my mind.

And how could one not be moved.

 

Linda Jansma
Senior Curator
The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

 

Above Image: José Seoane’s, Untitled

RMG paints a picture of Canada

Vol ‘n’ Tell is an ongoing series of blog posts written by RMG Volunteers. Raechel Bonomo is an Oshawa native, art enthusiast and second-year Print Journalism student at Durham College.

Rolling Canadian hills dominate the walls of Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s (RMG) main gallery space. In a corner, tiny fish can be seen swimming through space while totem poles hang on the opposite side of the room.

As part of the gallery’s Talk and Tour series, curator Linda Jansma took the public through a look into the career and life of one of Canadian’s prominent painters Jock Macdonald in Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form.

Jansma said the exhibit came together through a long process that began in spring 2011.

“This exhibit traces the artistic transition [Macdonald] underwent,” said Jansma. “His career as an artist journeys in a perpetual state of evolution.”

In 2012, Jansma was in the process of writing a grant to receive funding from the Department of Heritage for the exhibit when she received a strange email.

The sender was Jock’s nephew, Alistair Macdonald.

He asked Jansma about the collection of Macdonald pieces at the RMG for an exhibit he was curating at the Edinburgh Gallery in Scotland. During their correspondence, he notified Jansma about 40 letters written by his uncle stored in the Scottish gallery’s archives.

This was the missing piece to Jansma’s puzzle, she said. That fall, she took a five-day trip to Scotland to view the letters. The content of the letters led her to uncover the lost work of Macdonald.

She explored the various styles and periods of Macdonald and brought back with her paintings, drawings and methods unseen before by Canadian audiences.

Macdonald was born in 1897 in Thurso, Scotland. After his time in the army, he studied design at the Edinburgh College of Art. Macdonald immigrated to Canada in 1926 to take up a teaching job as head of design at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts.

One of his greatest contributions is as a founding member of Toronto-based abstract group, Painters 11 formed in 1953.

In the early stages of his career, Canadian Group of Seven member Lawren Harris’s work inspired Macdonald to paint abstract landscapes. This influence is visible in his work In the White Forest, 1932. This piece, among 92 other original works, is currently up in the RMG.

“Intuitively artists create within the structural forms of nature,” is a quote from Macdonald posted above his landscape works in the exhibit. There is a notable predominance of nature as his main influencer in the majority of his work, Jansma said.

“Jock always painted the fourth dimension of nature,” said Jansma. “It is how we’re suppose to feel about it, not how we see it.”

In the 1940s, Macdonald met British surrealist artists Dr. Grace W. Pailthorpe and Ruben Mednikoff. According to Jansma, they taught Macdonald surrealist painting methods such as automatics. This technique involves painting in quick-paced series, and dating work down to the very time it was created. Macdonald was diverting away from his traditional landscape work and producing surrealist-style paintings such as Fish Family, 1943 included in the RMG exhibit.

Many art historians credit 1957 – 1960 as Macdonald’s pre-eminent years as a painter. During this time, he painted an average of 50 paintings per year until he died suddenly from a heart attack on Dec. 3, 1960.

Jansma described Macdonald as the “pioneer of post-war abstraction in Canada.” According to her, he had a substantial influence on Canadian painters then and in future generations.

Pete Smith, Postscript, 2014

Pete Smith, Postscript, 2014

Bowmanville painter Pete Smith credits Jock Macdonald as one of his biggest influences and the catalyst to his current exhibit Postscript in Gallery A, located in the lower half of the RMG.

Smith told the RMG his exhibit is “an aesthetic research project into the work and life of Jock Macdonald. In this sense, it will function as a postscript: a sprawling, artistic labyrinth of additional information and my idiosyncratic response to the concurrently held exhibition, Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form.”

Evolving Form is the first major retrospect of Macdonald’s work in more than 30 years and can be viewed at the RMG until May 24.

 

Top Image credit: Jock Macdonald, Rim of the Sky, 1958; oil on canvas; Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery.